(This is an old story I wrote back in 2015)
Mikey tells me at the same time that my GPS tells me that “My location is on the right.” My excitement peaks when I see a demolition derby car parked outside of a junkyard looking place. It was something out of Mad Max, dented fenders, no glass, flat tires and an all around aura of destruction and evil. “Oh hell yes” I say to myself because I knew that only better things were to come around the corner. Mikey was taking me to see the body of his 1954 Chevy Bel Air. He has told me things about this car but I have yet to see it. We both get out of my car and I get my first glimpse down the row of cars that range from completely wrecked to decent condition. Then were the inbetweens, those shocked me. We spent a good twenty minutes walking around, looking at, opening doors and playing with different cars that were sitting around in the lot. I know what a 54 Chevy looks like so I had my eyes peeled. I had no previous knowledge of what exactly was in the yard here because I just wanted to find out for myself.
We get to the very back of the yard, giant concrete walls towering above us, one side is train tracks, the other a 5 story building. There is what used to be a 54 Chevy, no doors, no windows, no fenders, no trunk and no hood. Absolutely nothing. I moved things around a bit in the yard to be able to get a good photograph of the body. It was a black car, in the shade so lighting it right was a bit of a challenge but once I eventually got the lighting set, the photos really started to pop. This was just the first portion of Mikey’s car that I shot, I would have to go back at a later time to get everything else finished up.
Mikey’s Bel Air is spread across the entire city of Evanston and his house as well. I walked across Mikey’s backyard, about a week after I finished shooting at the garage that the body is stored in. Mikey open’s the side door to his garage and I look in and what do I see? A giant blue tarp. I was slightly confused because it really looked as if there was nothing else in there. He moves the tarp aside and there it is, the skeleton to his 57. Wheels and frame but little else. He starts to shift things around so I can get a better view of it. The big garage door opens and dust, dirt and what I can only assume to be rat shit rains down on me. “Oh yeah we haven’t opened this door since we brought the frame in here like seven months ago.” Mikey says to me with a laugh. I move out of the way of the raining feces to the outer part of his garage door where I can see the garage as a whole. Just like most other enthusiast’s garages I have been in, it was a giant nest of tools, parts and things that the rest of the family said “get this the hell out of the house or I’m moving.”
To most people that is true. Why wouldn’t you buy a pre built hot rod or even something you will never have to worry about? It is about the passion, and the emotional connection that car people, develop with their automobiles. Car culture is in a way very representative of a small sliver of our population. Whether it is working on cars or anything else, so few people actually get down and get their hands dirty anymore. The easy route is the way to go, but not for car people. Car people will intentionally put themselves in the hardest possible situation because they know that situation will yield the best results. Mikey is such an amazing example of this. To quote Mikey “you don’t truly love your car until you’ve gotten down to the bare frame.”